Ardbeg, that bastion of peat-freakdom, that Mecca of peat-worship, is … a solid contender for membership in the pantheon of best distilleries in the world, and many whisky aficionados would place it high on their personal lists. … It is Ardbeg single malt, using heavily-peated malt (55 to 65 ppm) from the maltings at Port Ellen (Ardbeg’s own kiln-fired maltings closed in 1977) and aged for at least 10 years in ex-bourbon barrels.
Upstart farm distillery Kilchoman has added a new single malt to its permanent portfolio, next to one of my favorites, Machir Bay. Kilchoman specializes in pristine craft peated malt that is remarkable for being excellent at a young age – like 3 or 4 years young. Like Machir Bay, this is partially sherry-aged. In Sanaig’s case, it’s an extra 10 months of aging in oloroso sherry casks.
This NAS (no-age-statement) bottling combines Ardbeg from ex-bourbon casks with a “heart” of Ardbeg finished in “dark sherry” casks. No details on how they’re defining “dark sherry” (or “heart” for that matter), but the Internet has decided this means heavily-seasoned sherry casks. The result is bottled without chill-filtration at 46.5% ABV.
Who knew this was going to be a sherry-bomb? Sherry notes that I’d associate with a 20+ year-old sherried malt, meaty and resinous. The peat is nowhere to be found, or so outperformed by the sherry that it instead melds into the background. I would recommend this to sherry buffs, especially those who enjoy the meaty/rancio side of the sherry spectrum.
This is not a malt for peat-freaks. This is a very well-balanced, mildly peated dram for a very respectable price. Often younger, cheaper Islay malts come across as brash, acrid, and bitter. Legend is the opposite of all of these: gentle, sweet, and mildly smoky.
Uigeadail (pronounced, believe it or not, “Oo-geh-doll”) is named after the loch from which Ardbeg sources its water. The whisky is a vatting of standard Ardbeg from ex-bourbon casks (supposedly the 10-year) with some quantity of sherry-aged Ardbeg. The result is bottled at cask strength.
The clean, crisp notes of peach and white grapes carry through from nose to finish, never allowing the peat to dominate. Masterfully blended – a truly excellent example of skilled blending and what it can accomplish.
While I could have done with a bit more robustness at 46% or so, I applaud both the craftsmanship of this whisky, and its sane price point. Clearly more well-rounded and well-integrated than the cheaper Legend, it trades peat intensity for sweetness and subtlety.
So what do you do when you want to beat a competitor’s vast success with Double Wood? Simple. Triple Wood! (Although Auchentoshan beat them to it). In this case, a reasonable vatting of standard ex-bourbon Laphroaig, Laphroaig Quarter-Cask (does that really count as a separate ‘wood’?), and ex- oloroso sherry casks.
I received a sample of the Exclusive Malts single-cask bottling of Laphroaig, distilled 2005/bottled 2013, by the distributor ImpEx Beverages (Thanks Katia!). It’s a single-cask Laphroaig bottled at 55.9% ABV. As usual with single-casks from independents, I’m looking for two very specific things…